UPDATE: 10 Digital Trends Worth Watching in 2020

— Trevor Jonas, VP - Digital Consulting 

Update 5/7/20After the COVID-19 outbreak, Trevor Jonas revisited this blog post and offered a quick take on which trends are more relevant than ever.


Original post:

Ready or not, we just rang in a new decade. There’s no doubt 2020 will be a wild ride on many fronts — including in the digital world we all live and work in. To that end, here are 10 currently trending digital topics that will continue to be worth talking about.


1. Growth of Stories

In 2018, the concept of Stories was still being debated — was the format simply a passing fad or would it stick? Fast-forward to today, and the Facebook platform has 1.5 billion daily active users for the Stories format. That’s 2x growth over the past year.

It’s safe to say Stories are here to stay, but many brands are not yet maximizing the opportunity. At least part of the reason is that most are simply not set up to produce and share “real-time” content on a consistent basis. The beauty of the Stories format lies in its unpolished nature and its in-the-moment view into events and happenings. Brands can begin testing the format using events — internal or industry — to capture and share content that is scrappier and less scripted.


2. Visual Commerce

Since the early days of social media, platforms and brands have correctly viewed the medium as a viable sales channel and have focused on finding ways to remove friction from the buying process.

As platforms like Instagram and Pinterest continue to release new visual commerce features, we’ve seen the gap between product discovery and purchase become as simple as a few taps on a phone. With the continued explosion of video and increasing adoption of the Stories format, visual commerce is still just in its infancy.


3. Gaming as a Channel

If you’re like me, you’ve dabbled in Fortnite to get a better understanding of what your kids are up to and why they’re so into it. As the 250 million-plus people who play Fortnite can attest, gaming has fully transformed into an immersive, communal experience. Case in point: In 2019, popular DJ “Marshmello” held a live concert within Fortnite that attracted some 10.7 million people — far more than any artist could possibly hope to attract in a single, live performance in real life.

Between the immersive games and the massive popularity of streaming platforms like Twitch, the opportunities for brands to reach audiences where they are is limited only by the imagination of those of us doing the marketing.


4. Rise of Voice

Voice-related content and services have exploded over the past several years. To wit: There are now upward of 47 million Amazon Echo devices installed in our homes.

Search is increasingly moving to voice as well. Brands that will “win” in the voice race will be those that successfully marry our traditional digital interface — the screen — with voice interaction and do it in a way that more closely mirrors human conversation.


5. AR/VR

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen an increase in 3D and 360-degree images being shared in my social feeds in recent months. At the same time, innovations like Google Lens, Snap’s Spectacles and Oculus continue to push the boundaries around image-based communication and discovery.

As our mobile devices continue to get more powerful cameras (the iPhone 11 Pro series now has three!), and we all get more comfortable with capturing, sharing and communicating in these new formats, we can expect innovation around more immersive advertising experiences to follow.


6. Data Privacy

The focus on consumer data — who owns it, how brands are required to handle it and what control all of us have over our own — is not a new discussion. We do, however, appear to be entering a new phase as recent high-profile scandals have started to shift the industry ever so slightly.

In 2019, we saw Facebook slowly start to release a “clear history” tool. Google unveiled tools that allow users to delete data about their searches and location, and Apple rolled out a way for people to create accounts and login to their favorite websites and apps without giving away a ton of personal information.

Part of the shift is due to more consumer awareness (and outrage) and part of it is that people are more comfortable acting. In fact, WE’s recent Brands in Motion global study found that 92% of people would stop using a product or service if it was using consumer data unethically. That’s not something brands can simply ignore.


7. Ad Platform Innovation

With increased scrutiny on consumer data and continued adoption of new and emerging formats, ad platform innovation is at a premium. The major players are all increasing efforts to bring new products and services to market to maintain or grow revenue.

For example, we’ve recently seen LinkedIn acquire Drawbridge with an eye on improving ad targeting and attribution, and there is an expectation that Snap is working on its own mobile ad network. The next several quarters are ripe for continued consolidation as a means to spur innovation.


8. Influence

Like it or not, social influencers aren’t going away. They have, however, largely evolved beyond cultivating simple paid relationships with brands.

Savvy brands are working to define what influence means to them and aligning their creator engagements accordingly. Today’s consumers expect brands to understand their humanity and to relate to them on a more emotional level. When done right, content creators can be a powerful vehicle to help bridge this gap.


9. Deepfakes

Although it might sound like something that would be executed on a sports field, a deepfake is not a game.

The technique allows someone to superimpose existing images and videos onto source images or videos, thereby creating a very realistic looking digital asset that is decidedly fake. We saw a handful of deepfakes make the rounds in 2019, and with the U.S. elections coming in November, we can expect to see a ton more. Brands in Motion found that consumers love technology, but 69% say change is happening too fast. Deepfakes are a great example of these changes in practice. For brands to win the hearts and minds of consumers, they have to constantly educate them around the changes happening across the industry and show both how and why that change is for the greater good.


10. Data-Inspired Creativity

With access to ever-expanding sets of data and a push from all sides of the organization to make data-driven decisions about the business, what happens to creativity?

Rather than shy away from data, savvy brands and agencies are fully embracing it as part of the creative process — using data to identify areas that are ripe for creativity or to validate creative territories that have been dreamed up. By having an intentionality around team shapes — for example, pairing a creative with a data scientist and a social strategist — organizations can keep data at the core while providing plenty of room for interpretation and creative expression.

What digital trends are you watching as we head into 2020?


Read more from WE’s tech team.